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What should I do if someone complains about me to the nursing board?
If someone files a complaint against you, your first instinct may be to dig your heels in and refuse to let the complaint change the way you work. After all, nursing is something you know well, and your career may even define you in many ways. Still, once that person files the complaint, the Arizona State Board of Nursing takes it very seriously and will investigate the allegations thoroughly.
Raising your hackles and taking offense at the complaint is one way to handle it, but that may not be the most productive course of action. In fact, nursing advocates recommend using the complaint as an opportunity to become a better nurse. You can do this while simultaneously helping your own situation.
Relying on the board is not the best prescription
Before taking any other steps, you may want to speak with an attorney who has successfully represented many nurses in front of disciplinary boards. Following professional legal advice may help prevent you from unnecessarily incriminating yourself or inadvertently making your situation worse. This possibility is entirely likely if you fail to recognize the duty and purpose of the nursing board.
Many nurses wrongly believe that the board is an advocate for nurses, that the board is there to protect your career and your reputation. This is far from the truth. The job of the nursing board is to protect the practice of nursing and to safeguard patients from nurses who are unfit for the job, even if temporarily. Unburdening your soul in front of the board may not be the best idea if you expect to continue working as a nurse.
A close examination of your practice
If someone has filed a complaint against you, you have the right to know the full extent of the complaint. After discussing the complaint with your legal counsel, you may be able to address it by making immediate changes in your practice. For example:
- Being scrupulous with your patient documentation
- Reviewing the scope of practice for your area
- Taking a class to improve your nursing skills
- Seeking out counseling if the complaint involves alcohol or drug abuse
By being proactive and taking these steps before the nursing board calls you for a hearing, you will demonstrate that you are willing to improve your skills and deal with the issues at hand. This may prove to be a positive move in the eyes of those responsible for judging your fitness to keep your license.
Taking your medicine
If the board should find merit in the complaint against you, the board may place conditions on you with regard to keeping or regaining your license. These conditions could include actions like taking continuing education classes or getting counseling for chemical dependency. Advocates for nurses recommend that you complete every condition the board places on your license as wholeheartedly as possible.
Successful legal representation before the board may reduce those penalties. When you have met the requirements for having your license reinstated, the assistance of an attorney can once again help you evaluate the options available to you.